Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Next Big Thing: Interview with Jane Rosenberg LaForge

What is the working title of the book?

With Apologies to Mick Jagger, Other Gods, and All Women.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I wrote one of the poems, “O Luminent Object,’’ while at Chelsea Piers. Chelsea Piers is a bunch of old warehouses on the docks of the Hudson River that have been converted into athletic facilities—a gym, a soccer field, a bowling alley, an ice skating rink. My daughter takes gymnastics classes there, and on Parents’ Day, parents are invited to come onto the floor of the gym and see their children perform their tricks up close and personal. So I was traipsing around on the gym floor, and I got the feeling of how the place is much like a carnival, or a three-ring circus. The ceiling is very high, with pipes and other utilities exposed, like a tent and its rigging. It’s loud, and overwhelming, and on that particular Parents’ Day, the parents were congealing around a celebrity whose daughter happened to be in the class. I had a kind of “bread and circuses” feeling, not so much of being duped but of being swept up in a romance I knew to be temporary. I wrote the poem, saw what I had, and realized how that feeling applied to some of my other work.

What genre does your book fall under?

Poetry: confessional, narrative, free verse.

What actors would you choose to play the part of characters in a movie rendition?

Naturally, I’d want Mick Jagger to play himself, although he is not so much a character as a metaphor for a time, place, and interminable youth. “Good Night Goodtime Hour” is about Glen Campbell, who lived in my neighborhood when I was a kid; I suppose Matt Damon could play him, since he played Glen Campbell’s part in the re-make of “True Grit.” The other characters in the poems are my mother, my sister, my father, old boyfriends, kids from school, even my daughter; people I know from my everyday life. They already loom so large in my imagination, they would be hard for me to cast. But I think my sister would want to be portrayed by an actress she was once obsessed with. Her name was Dana Hill, but she died from diabetes in 1996. My mother was a huge fan of Meryl Streep; she’d like that. I’d like to think that the girls the poem “Plummer Park” alludes to, including me, were like the girls

in the 1980 movie “Foxes” with Jodie Foster and Cherie Currie (the vocalist in the all-girl band The Runaways), but we really weren’t. The woman described in “To An Accomplished Ceramicist” is said to look much like Joni Mitchell, and has been mistaken for Rickie Lee Jones, so either one of them might work. “On the Day of the Military Coup” was written as Hosni Mubarak was being deposed; maybe Al Pacino chewing up the presidential palace might be good for that part. The inspiration for “Doctor Appleman’s Rest’’ looked like Carroll O’Connor when O’Connor played Archie Bunker, but all fathers begin to look like that, after a while.

What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Self-absorbed, silly teen-age girl takes a look at her mostly male idols and decides she’d better model her own life after the girls and women she’s known; their accomplishments are more real, and more accessible.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

That’s hard to say, because I don’t have a regular writing schedule for most of the year; only during the summer, when I’m not working. So when I say “years,’’ they aren’t full 365-day years. It may take me months to write a poem, so while I’m thinking about it on and off for a long period of time, I’m only actually writing in bursts or during whatever time I can steal. “Putin” is based on a quote I got from a documentary on 9/11; I had been thinking about that quote for close to a decade before I wrote that poem. The Mick Jagger poem I wrote before 2007, but it went through several drafts over the years. I wrote “O Luminent Object” in 2007, although it went through a couple of drafts. “Facebook Status” I wrote in the summer of 2009, so I had time to really work on it; it probably took several days. The poems about my mother and sister I wrote after July 2010, when my sister died. I put together a potential chapbook in the early summer of 2011 and didn’t get anywhere with it, so I kept adding to it until I had this collection.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve heard it said that the death of a writer’s mother is what finally frees that person to do his or her most real work, and I suppose my own mother’s death has spurred me to think about things I otherwise would have forgotten. My MFA is in fiction and although I had published a few poems over the years it wasn’t until my father temporarily lost his voice to throat cancer in 2003 that I began to write poetry more seriously, because I had to seriously consider what voice and sound meant, and poetry is partially about sound. Perhaps the most succinct answer is that aging--finally growing up after thirty years of adolescence--has inspired me, and continues to inspire me; to remember how both I and the world I grew up in have changed, because I’m losing the people who would otherwise do that for me.

What else about this book might pique the reader’s interest?

I hope the book encapsulates a certain time when children, and teen-agers, were left more to their own devices, and this—the stories contained in these poems--is what they did with them. They didn’t play video games or commit crimes or bully their peers on social media, but observed their environments and the people in them, and these observations became the foundation for all their impressions afterward. So I guess this book might interest readers in its depiction of adolescence, how so many ideas are forged during this period, and so many patterns are set, because of the intensity of those experiences, whether real or imagined.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

The book has been published by The Aldrich Press, an imprint of Kelsay Books:

And it’s available through Amazon:

For even more information, there’s my web site:

Title Poem

With Apologies to Mick Jagger

The only performance that makes it,
that really makes it, is the one that
achieves total madness, Mick Jagger
said, but it was a trick. Those words
were merely given to him, as if dictated
from a shadow on a loft wall or a skein
of crushed filaments, when the continents
were overlapping backwards from the
Pangaea’s completion. What he should
have said was about water, and lard,
and how country girls will attempt
to subsist on it; if they can’t, they will
diminish into sand, into powder, into
unidentifiable piles of cement stacked
by uncompleted roadways. We will
pave our next concepts with skeletons.
We tried to fight the government, but
the government had been counting on
it. It had been counting on all of us, so
when we could no longer defy auguries
in public, we submitted to its poor laws,
locking us in wheat and cambric. Every
night on the television—or was it the cinema,
if we could afford it—the newsreels were
hysterical, and we were mad. For light,
for heat, for molecules and messages;
as if love and murder were not arrows
sent through the mail, or the telegraph.
They were impelled by fuel, force, and
pressure, these copied trajectories from
Greece—or was it Rome? We had forgotten
the difference. Today the world turns without
us. Now it is the young who wait for a renewed
point of contact: a solar flare, a warp, the formation
of new capillaries, to recreate the species through poses,
stalled moments, and discard the compromises sculptors
must make to give their figures balance. Just allow me
to calculate my own wreckage through mirrors and poetry,
and other fantasies of measurement.

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